Mother always told us only speak if you have got something nice to say. A maxim we on the whole hold to at The Holborn, though occasionally one has to speak up and criticise that which needs criticism. So when our writer of all things literary and cinematic John Patrick Higgins filed this copy with the note ‘And this happened… Here is some unfettered ire.’ we really couldn’t not. Here is Mr.Higgins review of ‘Doghouse’ staring Danny Dyer.
In my callow youth I was a sneering hipster, routinely sneering at films I considered to be “so bad they’re good”. I was in it purely to mock the unspeakable scripts mouthed by unspeakable idiots, the ineptitude of the set designs, the art direction, the trodden on tomato special effects. If I’d been cinematically literate I could have jeered at the grammar of the films; the clumsy editing, the passive direction, the huge empty vistas of pointless tedium. But I wasn’t really aware of these things so I just laughed at the bad actors saying the stupid things. Over the years I’ve learned a bit more about making films and have, on occasion, even tried to make some myself. I can tell you, therefore, that there are a lot more films being made than you might think, and that almost all of them are bad. It is almost impossible to make a good film. Everything is against it. They are such sophisticated things, almost infinitely variable, that it is astonishingly difficult to keep them moored; they float out of your control like stray zeppelins, silently and inexorably heading towards power-lines. I’m amazed that there as many just-about-passable films as there are. It may well be why I’m such a pleasant critic – I genuinely appreciate the effort. It’s the time, the money, the free labour; the vision of unvisionary men. It’s a lot of work to make even the worst piece of crap you’ve ever seen. And besides what is a bad film? I’m no fan of Jason Statham but does he make bad films? Is “Crank” a bad film? It seems like a two hour collage of clenching and grunting; Tetsuo: the pumping iron man. It’s such a bricolage of Anime inspired, Cubist planes that it’s practically abstract; an eye-popping riot of colour and splintering objects, mostly masonry and bone. But it was probably a bigger hit than “Amour”. And these are mere fictions; they are entertainments, a circus for the masses: cinema is not art; it is more important and interesting than that. Cinema is to the arts what the Beatles were to show business: of it but really and truly not of it.
This weekend, however, I have seen what I believe to be a genuinely bad film. You will not be surprised to learn that it stars that doyen of the fucked flick, the none-more nominatively apt, Danny Dyer. Just what is it about Danny Dyer that makes him so different, so unappealing? He seems like a soft target; a loveable cockernee muppet, who, if not actual box-office poison, is certainly a powerful emetic. “But he’s harmless,” you say, “look at him investigating UFOs in the Nevada desert or failing to clock the spurned homosexual nuance of “Danny Dyer’s Deadliest Men”, shit-legging his way around estates the length and breadth of Britain and looking as though must have done something very bad indeed to his agent to warrant this betrayal. He’s alright, is Danny, he’s one of the lads.” Well, of course, that’s the sort of thinking that got Boris Johnson elected Lord Mayor of London. Danny Dyer is evil. Look at his rice pudding face, those two sweaty current eyes. He doesn’t look fat exactly but exudes the sort of greasy unhealthiness of the habitual nocturnal kebab enthusiast. You can imagine him pulling a heel of blue/yellow fat from his cheek each morning, his eyes sunken in like hot coals in a snowman’s face, his hair like a newborn’s. Then he climbs into his motor, without brushing his teeth, and fucks off to the studio where he puts in a hard day’s graft as “Manny Myer”: tasty geezer of this parish and “pwoper nawty”.
Jake West is a film director. Jake West made the film “Doghouse” starring Danny Dyer. His films are not good films. He made “Razor Blade Smile” with Eileen Daly, immaculately bosomed goth pin-up in a one piece leather suit. Sounds quite good doesn’t it? It isn’t. He also made “Evil Aliens” a film that was intended to be funny but which was scuppered by arthritic editing, a tired script, poor acting and the notion that people dying suddenly is inherently funny. It isn’t. It starred Emily Booth, immaculately bosomed goth pin-up, so you could say that he is at least thematically consistent. West improves with each film, at least in terms of technological accomplishment, though it looks like hard work, a slog. You feel tired at the end of watching one of his films: another out-of-puff fight scene, another poorly fleshed out character, another muffed punch-line. One day Jake West saw “Shaun of the Dead” and thought – I can do that! “Shaun of the Dead”, I know you’ve seen it but for the sake of comparison please allow this brief précis, is the story of an underachieving electrical shop employee who literally needs Armageddon to crash down around his ears in order to take some responsibility for his life. His chief relationships are with his girlfriend who dumps him halfway through the film for his relentless inadequacy and with his even more feckless flatmate, whom he has known since childhood. That was the film that Jake saw: a nagging girlfriend and some great-mates and that is the film he has made. Writ large. “Doghouse” tells the story of Vince who is in the process of getting divorced so all of his “great-mates” decide to take him to the country to drink heavily and try and cop off with birds, as the ratio of women to men in the anomalous village of Moodley, chosen for the jaunt, is four to one, in an odd echo of Gregory’s Girl’s semi-mythical Caracas. This does not go down well with the lad’s girlfriends. Any of them. Though predictably Vince’s mate who runs a comic shop doesn’t have a girlfriend. Less predictably Vince has a gay mate called Graham but, as we see, their relationship is very much divided along butch and femme lines: Graham is a t-shirt and lager bloke, his boyfriend a bloused up hissing and spitting queen, smoking cigarettes with the sort of mannered feyness usually reserved for Gestapo officers. Without exception the girlfriends lose it; hurling objects and insults, screaming their heads off. We are never given any reason as to why they all act in this way, no back-story is proffered, and there is no mitigation. This is how women behave: as soon as a man wants to do anything that isn’t looking in Estate Agent’s windows or rubbing their feet, they gather on their hind legs and hawk up their venom like the dead-eyed basilisks they are. These are the girlfriends only contributions to the film. They are on screen for no more than five minutes of screaming and throwing things (under arm, natch) and then they’re gone. The lads repair to a pub (which looks a lot like the Albany where my brother witnessed an excitable real-life Dyer being escorted from the premises after a “disagreement” at the bar) and spark up cigars to celebrate their freedom only to be censured by, you guessed it, a woman for flouting the smoking ban. “What are you going to do?” suggests Dyer, wittily, “we out-number you, slag!” This is, of course, not quite true as the police, who could be called upon to enforce said law, considerably outnumber Dyer and his deadliest men. But no this is once again a scene of disenfranchised white men bristling under the yoke of female oppression, lashing out at the nearest authority figure.
“John, mate, you’re a twat! Get over it, it’s just a film. It’s a get the lads together, bring beer and pizza and disengage brain sort of film. It’s just colourful lights and noises and words and people who don’t even exist. He thinks it’s real! Nutter!” Well, you’re quite right. People did call me mad when I watched a Danny Dyer film. It was my brother’s fault – he put it on; he thought it would be funny. But “Doghouse” isn’t funny. “Doghouse” is one of the most genuinely offensive films I’ve ever seen. It’s offensive for the very reasons that its IMDB fans (it has a surprisingly high rating) praise it. I don’t hate it because it’s witless, or because it lacks ambition, or that it squanders a potentially excellent cast (Lee Ingleby what are you DOING?) or even because it’s badly made; it’s technically proficient. Its major problem is the assumption that its audience hate women, and that dehumanising them to the point that they become a series of end of pier caricatures or job roles is inherently funny. It’s a seventies club comic’s notion of femininity come to life and eating people’s brains. Which is probably the reason that Dyer survives the film. Of course, there are other reasons to despise this film. Here is a list of some of the lunk-headed awfulness on display. If you like the following ideas, then “Doghouse” is your sort of movie: The first scene sees lead idiot Vince plunge his hand into a tray of elderly curry whilst attempting to turn off his alarm clock. This is short-hand for “his wife has left him”. The first line of audible dialogue goes to Dyer. It is “Fucking hell!”
Mikey (Noel Clarke) anticipates his wife attempting divorce him for the crime of going away at the weekend and so he superglues her wedding ring to her finger while she sleeps so she can’t throw it at him. We don’t see him do it as that would have potentially been funny. He just mentions it. Dyer’s rousing speech to the gathered lads: “The first thing we do when we get in the country, we’re going to piss up all the trees, mark our territory. Then we’re going to find a pub and we’re going to drink until we can no longer speak, we’re going to communicate in grunts for the rest of the night like cavemen, until we pass out in the woods. Now, are there any questions?” There are no questions. They all have “Match of the Day” as their ringtone, as if we didn’t get that they were lads. The phones are abruptly confiscated on the slightest of pretexts. There is a sub-plot involving poor Mary Tamm as local politician Meg Nut (Ingleby’s character helpfully inverts it to “nutmeg” in case we didn’t get it). It goes nowhere.
In the most offensive scene Danny is trussed up in a chair by one of the “Zombirds” (Oh, I forgot to tell you, the walking dead women in “Doghouse” are referred to as Zombirds throughout) who is enacting a grotesque parody of a dinner date, although as she is fat they’ve put her in a pink negligee, called her Bubbles and gifted her with a chocolate cake, albeit one decorated with severed fingers. Dyer, weeping, attempts to sweet-talk his way out of the situation and, summoning every last iota of charm, offers to shag her. That’s all he can think of. In the Extras accompanying the DVD Dyer believes that this is a stepping off point for female viewers of the film. His character has been set up to be a male chauvinist pig but now, crying, strapped to a chair and attempting to cop off with the living dead, he believes that he has won the female viewers round. There are no female viewers for this film, Danny. Not even your mum would sit through this. (Ed.Note- And if after that you still want to watch the trailer, here you are) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFy9IPNvLzg John Patrick Higgins